Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

This cold weather makes me yearn for comfort food, and there can be no greater hug than from this slow cooked lamb shank dish.  Cooking them this way makes the meat tender and fall from the bone, and is probably one of my favourite lamb dishes.

lamb shanks

Ingredients
• 4 Lamb shanks
• 2 Leeks chunky chopped
• 2 Carrots chunky chopped
• 1 Red Onion chunky sliced
• 2 Sprigs of rosemary (or a teaspoon of dried)
• Handful of mint leaves chopped
• 2 Bay leaves
• 1 Glass of red wine
• 3 Fat Garlic Cloves chopped in half
• 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
• 250mls of beef stock
• Ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp of olive oil
• (Optional) Mushrooms a handful chopped in half

This is all about preparation.  There is precious little cooking which if you are busy, can be a lifesaver.  Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees.  Heat the olive oil in a large casserole pan, add the lamb shanks and turn them around to brown slightly.  Once you have done this, remove from the heat and simply add all the other ingredients.  Give the dish a mix round and place the lid on.  Cook for about two and a half to three hours.  The meat will come off the bone shank very easy, so gently remove them when serving.  I like to use and eat the vegetables that they were cooking with, which turns to be a rich ratatouille style mixture.  I serve this with roast or mashed potatoes and green cabbage.

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Fish Pie

This is a great dish for the family, especially if you are one of those people who are not particularly enamoured with fish, yet still wish to get nutrients into your body.  With the weather still being particularly cold in the UK, it is also nice to eat something warming and tasty, yet not cost the earth.

fish pie

Ingredients
• Enough mashed potato to cover the top of your pie dish
• Pinch of black peppercorn
• 1 medium onion roughly chopped
• 1 bay leaf
• 550ml of semi skimmed milk
• 1 carrot roughly chopped
• 500g of cod or haddock
• Handful of prawns
• 110g of salmon fillet and/or smoked haddock
• A generous handful of frozen peas or sweetcorn
• 170ml of double cream
• 60g of butter
• 60g of flour
• Salt & Pepper
• Optional – handful of grated cheese
Place the peppercorns, onion, bay leaf, carrot and milk in a large saucepan and gradually bring it to the boil.  Allow the milk to cool for 20 minutes or so.  This will allow the flavours to infuse into the milk, then strain off those ingredients, so that you are left with just the milk.  Then place this milk into something like a large frying pan, and add the fish pieces in.  Simmer for four minutes and then allow the fish to cool in the milk, for around 15 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade.  Gently remove the fish from the milk and keep to one side.  In a measuring jug place the double cream, then add enough milk to make it up to around 500ml.  Make a roux by melting the butter with the flour and cook it gently, until it starts to foam.  Be careful to not let it overcook! Add the milk/cream mixture a little at the time, and whisk until the mixture is lump free.  This could take a few minutes but you should be left with a lovely creamy sauce.  You can add a little salt and some pepper here.  I caution you to be careful with the salt, if you are using smoked fish, as you do not want the dish to be over salty in taste.

Place an ovenproof dish on a baking tray.  You need a baking tray, as occasionally sauce bubbles over the top and the last thing you want is a mess in your oven.  Place the fish in the dish, along with prawns and peas/sweetcorn.  Pour oven the sauce and then cover with mashed potato.  A tip here, is to dot the mashed potato over the top and then smooth it together.  If you lump it all on top, your mixture underneath will go everywhere.  I like to make a fish scale pattern on the potato topping, but you can do your own style on top.
Cook in the oven for 30 minutes.  If you wish to add the optional cheese on top, pre-heat your grill, then sprinkle the cheese on the top of the potato and grill until golden brown.
Serve with some nice greens like broccoli.

Cauliflower – How good is it?

I led the health and food club today and listed all the good things that are in cauliflower.. A few people were shocked!

Rich in vitamins and minerals

Vitamin B1 – Assists in production of new cells and the immune system.

Vitamin B2 – Antioxidant – helps against ageing, heart disease, red blood cell production which gets oxygen going through the body, possible help with migraines (there are ongoing studies).

Vitamin B3 – Boosts HDL cholesterol (the good one) possibility it can help with acne.

Vitamin B5 – Helps hormones and healthy skin.

Vitamin B9 – Good to help depression, memory loss and especially helps pregnant women with their babies growth and development.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids – For fighting blood pressure, cholesterol, asthma, depression, arthritis, crohns, strokes, heart attacks. Slightly lower levels needed for diabetes sufferers or those on blood thinners.

Vitamin K – To help against heart protection, osteoporosis, cancer especially prostate cancer lung cancer, liver cancer and leukaemia. There are studies to say it helps those with insulin sensitivity and people who get the most of vitamin K2 are 20% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Also thought to help Alzheimers and tooth decay. Pregnant women do have to be careful with the amount of vitamin K and that they get no more than 65 micrograms.

Vitamin C – For the immune system, heart and cardio system, eye disease, skin and cancer.

Manganese – For assistance with bones, skin, some research to say that it can help blood sugar control, helps thyroid, and metabolism of fats and carbs.

Glucoraphanin – For digestive support, lining of the stomach and prevents bacterial overgrowth.

Diabetes – Type 2 – Get well

Today, I led my first Health & Food club workshop and the topic was diabetes.  This is the notes that accompany the class, which I hope people found informative and helpful.

white chocolate

So what is diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to function properly, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. This means that glucose stays in the blood and isn’t used as fuel for energy.

What are the signs of diabetes?

• feel thirsty
• urinate more than usual, especially at night
• feel tired all the time

It’s estimated that more than 1 in 16 people in the UK has diabetes. Currently 3.9 million people are living with diabetes in the UK, with 90% of those affected having type 2 diabetes.

What problems can be caused by diabetes?

Vision loss and blindness
Kidney failure
Lower limb amputation
Strokes and cardiovascular disease

How to help type 2 diabetes
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Lose weight (if you’re overweight) and maintain a healthy weight
Stop smoking (if you smoke)
Drink alcohol in moderation
Get plenty of regular exercise

Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to obesity and tends to run in families. It is more prevalent in South Asians and Afro-Caribbeans.

184,000 KILLED BY SUGARY DRINKS IN A YEAR

I came across a very interesting article in the Telegraph newspaper recently, concerning a warning from scientists over deaths caused by sugary drinks.

Deaths due to diabetes, cancer and heart disease have been thought to have a link to the rise in consumption of fizzy drinks in the under 45’s.  The breakdown of deaths are as follows:-

133,000 diabetes related deaths
45,000 cardiovascular disease
6,450 from cancer caused by fizzy drinks fruit drinks, energy drinks and sweetened ice teas in 2010

One group of people who are thought to be particularly at risk are young girls, with the early onset of puberty causing a cancer risk.  It is suggested that for every year a girl starts early in puberty, then there is a 5% higher risk for breast cancer.

A sad case I came across, involved a man who drank 3 litres of cola a day and died, after his lungs swelled four times their normal weight.  It is such a waste of life that could be avoided, given the right help and support.  Addiction to sugar I believe, is now becoming as bad as smoking.

If you think the artificial sweetener approach to soft drink is any better, then you may wish to think about some research that came from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012, where women who drank one of these drinks a day, increased their risk of a stroke by 83 per cent.  Artificial sweeteners could also cause diabetes (research courtesy of the Diabetes Care 2013) who say that these sweeteners can cause a sudden blood insulin and glucose spike/rush, which will could eventually make the person insulin resistant, thus causing diabetes.

In the hot weather, you may wish to crack open a can, but first think about whether this is a once in a while drink, or if you have consumed far too much and should think about cutting your intake down.  Most importantly, consider children and their consumption.  Sugar has been given the nickname of ‘crystal meth of the food world’ and so far, I cannot help but agree.

Can’t get off the sweet stuff?

Try sugar replacements such as Trivia with the stevia leaf extract and xylitol.

Coconut nectar is a great sweetener because not only is it 100% organic and alive with enzymes, but it is great for those who may be diabetic. It is raw, low glycemic, GMO free and is vegan.

What is good for a diabetic to eat?

Beans

Try kidney, pinto, cannellini, or black beans, you can’t find better nutrition than that provided by beans. They are very high in fibre giving you about 1/3 of your daily requirement in just a ½ cup.

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

Spinach and kale – are so low in calories and carbohydrate.

Citrus Fruit

Grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes.

Sweet Potatoes
A vegetable packed full of vitamin A and fibre. They are a great alternative to potatoes as they are lower GI, meaning they go through the digestive system slower and that stops sugar spikes and surges.

Berries

Blueberries, strawberries or blackberries are just some you can have.

Fish High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines

Whole Grains

Swap the white rice, pasta, breads and grains for wholegrain variety.

Nuts

Nuts provide key health fats along with hunger management. Some nuts and seeds, such as walnuts and flax seeds, also contain omega-3 fatty acids.

Fats

Some fats help protect your heart. Think avocados, almonds,walnuts and pecans.

Other items

Foods which have reputed health benefits for diabetics are cinnamon, turmeric, olive oil, asparagus, apples, flaxseed, garlic, melon, oats, tomatoes and quinoa.

Indonesian Style Curry

I love all the wonderful aromatic flavours from Indonesian dishes.  The combination of lemongrass, garlic and ginger in particular, are enough to get the taste buds excited!

This curry requires a bit of preparation, but it is well worth it, as it tastes a bit different, to the usual curries we have in the UK and makes for a pleasant change.

IMG_2588

Ingredients

  • 3 Garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • 2 Red chilli’s deseeded and chopped (add more if you like)
  • 1 Inch piece of fresh ginger chopped
  • 2 Lemon grass chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 3-4 Chicken breasts depending on size but into bite sized pieces.
  • 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 2 Large Onions Sliced
  • 1 Tsp brown sugar
  • 2 Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • 1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 3 Star Anise
  • 1 x 400ml Can of coconut milk
  • 100ml of Chicken Stock
  • 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Fish Sauce
  • Fresh Coriander chopped
  • Optional – Fine green beans/Sugar Snap Peas

In a food processor place the garlic, chilli, ginger, lemongrass and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Blitz until it resembles a rough paste.  You may need to use a spatula a couple of times to eliminate larger lumps.

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan place the olive oil, then take the chicken and cook it until it is lightly brown.  Then remove the chicken from the pan and add the curry paste from the food processor.  Heat through for a couple of minutes, then all the remaining ingredients except the fresh coriander and green beans/sugarsnap peas.  Cook the curry on a low simmer for 40 minutes. Then add the peas/beans (if using) and cook for a further 4 minutes.

Serve the curry with rice and sprinkle over some freshly chopped coriander.

*I would not use salt in this dish as I find the chicken stock and fish sauce adds enough salt flavour – don’t forget to remove the star anise and kaffir lime leaves once you are about to eat!*